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Lorena Barron

1. What is a brief description of your job?
video My official job title here at Genentech is a Research Assistant but what I actually do would constitute a Formulation Chemist, and what I do is I get either a protein or a small molecule and I analyze and characterize how it interacts with the body or with the fluids that are going to be in the formulation. So I also decide whether it's going to be injected, whether it's going to be taken orally, which is like a tablet or a syrup.

2. Where did you grow up?
video I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and I'm a first generation Mexican-American. Actually my parents migrated to Texas in 1960 and I lived there until 1987 when I graduated from high school and then I came to to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. After graduating from Stanford I obtained a position here at Genentech and now I live in south city--South San Francisco, California.

3. What training and degrees do you hold? What were the specific areas of study?
video I hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry from Stanford and my main emphasis was physical chemistry, with biochemistry included.

5. What is the minimum training that is required for your job?
video As a Research Assistant in formulation the minimum requirements of training would be about a year of biochemistry, a year of physical chemistry, and a year of biology. And it would really help to have lab experience so having an internship during the summers, when you're off of school, in an industrial field like here at Genentech.

6. How many years of study are typically needed to acquire the training for your job?
video To obtain the training for this job you need a four year degree, which is your bachelors at the very minimum.

7. What percentage of an average day is spent using your training?
video I spend about 90% of my day using my training which is in laboratory work.
video In the remainder of the day it's a lot of data processing and a lot of writing of tech work--technical reports. So what you use is a lot of math, a lot of english grammar skills. And the other time is scheduling of meetings and organization so you can have time to do your experiments and attend meetings, and write your reports and do the rest of the things that you have to do. So you have to be very efficient also.

8. What science education, if any, is useful in your field?
video The science education that's useful in my field would be chemistry, biology, some physics, and probably immunology, and biochemistry.

9. What general work skills do you use on a daily basis?
video On a daily basis the general work skills in addition to the scientific work skills that I use are organizational skills, writing skills mathematical skills as well as time management.

10. Are you working in isolation or with a team of co-workers or subordinates?
video As a Research Assistant I actually work as part of a team in a laboratory setting so everyone is around so we can ask questions and there's a lot of interaction.

11. What are your working conditions? Dress codes? Environment (Indoor or Outdoor)?
video The working condition, as a Research Assistant, is basically based on a laboratory setting. So it's in a lab, indoors. Your dress code is you can wear what you please. You don't necessarily have to wear a lab coat or gloves, or anything that is in the stereotypical lab setting.
video If the experiments entail hazardous conditions then you would use lab coats. But most of the experiments that we do depend on what you are doing: if you're doing a sterile fill, for example, then you would gown up from head to toe because you don't want anything contaminating it. If you're just doing an everyday experiment you don't necessarily have to do that.

12. What is the biggest challenge you face in your field?
video As a Research Assistant in the Pharmaceutical Research and Development department the major challenge we face is trying to beat timelines. It's the lack of time in order to fit everything we have to do in the time block that is given to us. That is probably the major challenge.

13. What is the most rewarding experience in your field?
video The most rewarding experience is probably when a product finally gets approved and you see it that it is approved and it's out in the market because you know that all your work has come to something.

14. How did your interest in your field develop?
video When I was little I wanted to be either a nurse, or a doctor or something in the medical field. And when I actually graduated from high school I knew that I didn't have the discipline to be a doctor, to go through all that schooling but I knew I still wanted to be part of medicine. So in college I explored the different fields dealing with science which is chemistry, biology, microbiology, physics. And I finally decided on chemistry. Chemistry seemed to fit everything that I wanted.

15. What did you want to be in high school?
video I guess it was instilled ever since I was a little girl from my parents and from my aunts that I was always a fixer, a fixer of things and my aunt said, "Oh she's either going to be an engineer or a doctor." And I liked medicine a lot more than engineering. I was more of a physical/analytical type.

16. Was school easy or hard for you then, and did you like it?
video School was easy for me in high school. It was pretty easy for me in high school but I paid for that in college. Because in college, because high school was so easy for me, I didn't develop the study skills that were needed for college. But I still like school. I like learning and actually in college I liked school more because it proved to be a challenge.

17. Are you doing now what you expected to do when you finished school?
video I'm doing exactly what I wanted to do when I finished college. After having a few internships I knew I wanted to deal in formulation, in some sort of research capacity and that's what I'm doing.

18. What advice do you have for students interested in your field?
video In my specific field the advice that I have to give would be to study hard and if you want to go to pharmaceutics you probably would need to take biochemistry and chemistry, but you can't forget to include all the rest of them like English. English is important, believe it or not, and math as well. In my field you have to write a lot of reports whether it be a tech reports within the company or peer reports out in magazines. So you definitely need to know how to write and that entails grammar and everything else.

19. Beginning with high school, what science courses do you recommend to prepare for your field?
video The science course I recommend to prepare for my field would be chemistry. With high school I know it'd be chemistry and biology and definitely physics, and if possible to get up to calculus. And in college then you can start taking biochemistry, and maybe even immunology, and having more courses dealing with the human body.

20. How is the future projection for jobs in this career? Do you forsee an increase in demand in the future?
video As a Research Assistant in Pharmaceutical Research and Development the job projections that I see are pretty good. There might be an increase in demand for our position since a lot of the work that we do can't be replaced by machines. So humans have to do that.

21. Do you use the Internet on a daily basis? If so, how?
video I do use the internet on a daily basis as part of my job as a Research Assistant. I have to order different supplies that I use as well as conduct literature searches in order to investigate a certain protein or small molecule that might have been investigated before, as well as certain excepients that I need to put into a formulation that I make.

22. With regard to your profession, which web sites do you recommend for students interested in your field?
video For students interested in my field I probably would suggest, besides university research centers or different departmental websites for chemistry or any of the sciences, I probably would suggest the professional organizations. The American Chemical Society, or the Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, those websites are pretty good.

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